Humor is relative. I just wish he were related to somebody else. I just made that up. I think. But I probably heard it somewhere else in the past, oh, 80 years of American humor that is captured in pop culture and ray-gunned at my susceptible brain from the boob tube, from radio waves, from subliminal messages flashing on the silver screen, from my own sick, twisted genetically programmed need to find some things in life to be just so damned funny while my mate sits beside me, arms crossed, eyes rolling. Indeed, most all of the humor captured in this anthology of “The Funny Business of America” is relatively funny. OK, that’s corny. But one can’t help but be inspired to give it a shot when flipping through these pages of funny quotes, funny pictures, and funny bits of historical trivia that, well, really make you laugh, or guffaw, or at least giggle a bit. (Any less than that and if you’re not already dead then you should be, dammit.) You may prefer Phyllis Diller (from the “Nerds, Jerks, Oddballs, and Slackers” section) to Richard Pryor (in “The Groundbreakers” section), but no matter the shade of your quirk (slapstick? dark? sophisticated? crude?), this book has you covered. Based on the documentary film of the same title by Michael Kantor (aired on PBS), give this coffee-table-sized book to someone whom you want to make, at the very least, smile.
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“How do you like your murder? Well done, served with proper silverware and linen? Or rather on the rare side, and you’ll use the tail of your shirt to wipe your mouth? Depends upon your mood, does it? Well then, for the evening you’re inclined toward a sip of the sherry, partake of any of the 19 discs of polite, proper mysteries adapted from the novels of Caroline Graham, enjoy sips of “evil lurking beyond the well-trimmed hedges of Midsomer”, but be careful, lest you get rattled and spill. We’re not that polite, here. Rather perverse at times, in fact.
Fans of Law & Order will sink their teeth into the equally gritty Trial & Retribution: Set 1 (perhaps best washed down with a throat-searing scotch). They’ll already know Prime Suspect (same creator, similar gritty approach), and crave the depravity, moral ambiguity, and simply very bad, anti-social behavior on display from crime to conviction, here. It’s all rather lip-smacking, delicious stuff.”
Cross’s history of Kurt Cobain’s life uses the standard words and pictures to tell its story, but then throws a curveball by including pull-out documents of Cobain drawings, writings, photos and bits of Nirvana memorabilia. It’s the compelling “museum in a box” concept that worked so well for Marvel Comics last year and DC Comics last year. One of these “objects in a book” includes a CD of the Nirvana frontman’s unreleased spoken word material. It’s a compelling way to tell this enigmatic figure’s life story in a fresh fashion.
If a “History of the World According to Video Games” textbook ever existed, the biggest chapter would be for World War II, the source of countless first-person and third-person shooters. Why there aren’t more games based on other time periods or wars is a bit of a mystery, but in the meantime, Call of Duty: World at War is the best of a crowded genre. It helps that World at War doesn’t serve up a Normandy and D-Day rehash for the billionth time; instead the game covers the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific as well as Russia’s reversal of the tide at Stalingrad all the way to the Fall of Berlin. It also helps that the game features quality voice acting from Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman, an extremely fun four-player cooperative campaign, addicting multiplayer similar to Call of Duty 4‘s, and a bonus Nazi zombie mode that unlocks when you finish the campaign.
What more can be said about a stellar product that sells itself? A little bit more enthusiasm won’t hurt. High-quality sound and video? Check. Excellent concert footage? Check. In this third in the series set: Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderlley, Bill Evans, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lionel Hampton and Oscar Peterson. Bonus disc: performances by Nina Simone, Sonny Rollins and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. If the jazz fan in your household does not already have Series 1 and 2 of this fine collection, then really make her happy and buy her all three sets. They will stay with her as long as she draws breath.